Markell nominates Delaware businesswoman to head DEDO

 (Delaware Economic Development Office photos)

(Delaware Economic Development Office photos)

Four days after Alan Levin announced his resignation, Gov. Jack Markell has named a replacement to head up the state’s economic development office.

Markell nominated DEDO Deputy Director Bernice Whaley to the post.

“Bernice is a remarkable person who has overcome significant personal challenges and adversity to succeed in business and in the public sector,” said Markell.

Raised by a single mother who passed away when Whaley was a teenager, she worked full time while earning a degree at the University of Delaware. After graduating, Whaley took an entry-level job managing inventory at Happy Harry’s. At the time, the Delaware-based drugstore chain only had 13 stores and approximately 100 employees.

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DEDO Director Alan Levin’s father, Harry, founded Happy Harry’s. When he died in 1987, the younger Levin took over the family business, which eventually grew to 76 stores and 2800 employees. Walgreens bought out the chain in 2006. 

Whaley worked her way up the ranks becoming vice president of distribution and inventory management, managing all aspects of Happy Harry’s inventory, supply chain, and operation of distribution centers.

“Over 25 years, she was a vital piece of the team that grew Happy Harry’s from a local retailer with 13 stores into the leading drug store chain in our state and region. She knows what it takes to create and grow a business, and since joining DEDO in 2009, she has brought that experience to work for Delaware businesses.”

As deputy director, Whaley managed DEDO’s day-to-day operations, including leading business development and attraction projects, working with site advisors and leading the development of the state’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

Honored to be nominated, Whaley said if she’s confirmed she wants to build on DEDO’s successes and provide even more support to small businesses. 

“I know what it takes to grow a small business to the next level – creating jobs and stability,” Whaley said. “I want to extend DEDO’s outreach with programming on how to access capital, how to get your business noticed, how to benefit from e-commerce, and how to benefit from productivity strategies.”

If confirmed by the state Senate, Whaley will succeed Levin who is leaving at the end of the legislative session to become a senior advisor for SoDel Concepts, a Delaware restaurant group founded by the late Matt Haley. 

Markell also announced on Monday that he will nominate Secretary of State Jeff Bullock to become chair of the Diamond State Port Corporation when Levin, who is the current chair, steps down at the end of June. Bullock currently serves as vice chair.

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